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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Will Jamie's Jam Get Sticky For Guv? Ex-Campaign Manager Estrada Pleads Not Guilty But Has Power To Subpoena; Susana On The Stand? Plus: Downs Deal Lawyer Defends It As Estrada Is Arraigned 

Jamie Estrada
The legal wheels are starting to roll on emailgate and before it's over some political wheels could come flying off and spinning in all manner of direction. Some supporters of Governor Martinez are concerned that one of those wheels could hit her:

Does Susana and her inner circle realize the ramifications of handing accused email hijacker Jamie Estrada subpoena power?" asked one.

Good question. Susana urged the Feds to go after Estrada--her former campaign manager--and now that they have, things do not look as clear cut as the Guv may have hoped, Yes, Estrada has been indicted, but R's fear he may have held back damaging email information he collected on the administration and is going to drop the bombs during the lengthy legal process he faces.

That's where that concern about Estrada being able to subpoena documents and witnesses as part of his defense comes in.

Will Governor Martinez be subpoenaed? Her shadow and political consultant Jay McCleksey? Chief of Staff Gardner? And, if they are, what will they be asked about?

Estrada who served in the US Commerce Dept. under President George W. Bush, entered a not guilty plea Monday to federal charges that he hacked Martinez's campaign email system and intercepted communications from the Governor and her staff.

And if you think this case against Estrada is a no-brainer, think again. His attorney gave a preview of the battle to come:

Jamie Estrada is not guilty of the charges against him. This is just the beginning of a process that should allow us to expose the significant legal and factual problems with the allegations against Mr. Estrada.

And then there's our Legal Beagles. They'll tell you a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, but getting a conviction can be as tough as a well-done steak at K-Bob's. In the Estrada case one of them tells us of a legal strategy that could have him beating the rap:

If Estrada is the legal owner of the website and he did not intend to use the emails for an illegal purpose, he should be okay because then the US Attorney cannot show he “intercepted” anything, much less that he actually intended to use the communication for criminal or tortuous activity. Under the definitions of the law a "computer trespasser" does not include an owner or someone known by the owner. The relevant statute says:

(It) does not include a person known by the owner or operator of the protected computer to have an existing contractual relationship with the owner or operator of the protected computer for access to all or part of the protected computer.

That is why Martinez’s camp is saying that they revoked Estrada’s privileges to access the domain but I doubt they have provided proof of that nor do they have proof that Estrada wasn’t the legal owner of the domain.

The criminal case will be of keen interest, but equally so will be the inner workings of the Martinez campaign apparatus that will be coming to light as a result of this political melodrama.

THE DOWNS DEAL

Rogers
And then there's Estrada's insistence that the lease for the racino at the Downs at ABQ was rigged by the administration. That charge is the one that rankles them most and has caused them to send out attack dogs on the media and others who are reporting that the FBI has launched a Downs investigation and has asked several former Martinez campaign staffers about the deal.

That concern was underscored Monday when Pat Rogers, the controversial Republican attorney, emerged on the same day Estrada was indicted to make this statement on the Downs deal:

The suggestion that Mr. Estrada hijacked and disseminated the emails as part of a plan to expose `wrongdoing' by others is a desperate and late invention that does not begin to explain why he would also lie to the FBI. In addition, I was an attorney for two of the owners of the Albuquerque Downs. I did negotiate the competitive and open lease that replaced the sole source, secret deal proposed during the Richardson administration. I have met with FBI agents and had a number of conversations. All discussions have concerned the people involved in stealing and misusing the emails stolen from the governor’s private email account. I was never asked about the Albuquerque Downs.

Hey, Pat, maybe the FBI is saving the best for last.

Among the emails intercepted by Estrada were communications Rogers had with administration officials about the Downs lease. There was also an email released that cost Rogers his job at a prominent ABQ law firm. In it he made insensitive comments about Native Americans.

The Governor's attempts to keep the narrative simple--Estrada stole emails from her campaign account and should be punished--are crumbling. Estrada now has a public platform to shout about the Downs deal and any other dirty linen he perceives about the administration and it can't and won't be ignored. And he has subpoena power. Rogers' defensive statement is capitulation to that reality. Why the volatile Rogers was sent out to draw even more attention to the Downs deal is another question that has the political pros murmuring about the wheels coming off this thing.  

Yes, the Governor's wish that Estrada be nabbed by the Feds may in the months ahead fall into the category of: "Be careful what you wish for, you may get it." 

THE BEAR

The Bear Market isn't done with us. And its latest paw print is a doozy. In Santa Fe, the 70 year old Packards on the Plaza--an iconic store directly across from the legendary La Fonda Hotel--is closing its doors at the end of this summer. Packards will be remembered as a classy place that sold some of the finest Indian jewelry and southwestern art around. It has been a major lure for tourists as well as locals and is located at the most prime retail corner on the historic Santa Fe Plaza.

The owners blame economy for the closure. They don't see the future replicating the past. And they are simply closing--no one is buying.

The concern is what replaces stores like Packards? Santa Fe has been getting cheesy enough during this prolonged slump and if it can't keep its high-end retail and restaurant environment it's going to look more like downtown ABQ--not the distinguished and alluring City Different that has been a must see for discerning tourists.

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